Eugene McCall knows he’s making a difference. He’s reminded at every graduation.
It’s a nearly indescribable feeling when one of his students walks across the stage in cap and gown.
“My heart tickles!” McCall exclaimed. “My eyes water, and I know we are doing something special and making an impact.”
And Regions Bank is part of it.
McCall serves as education coordinator for Wilmer Hall’s Education4Life program. The Wilmer Hall Children’s Home has served Mobile, Ala., since 1864. Its oldest and core mission is to provide a home for homeless young people, and it also helps children and families succeed in physical health, emotional stability, academic achievement, and spiritual maturity. McCall launched Education4Life in 2010 with 12 students; it’s grown ever since.
Mentorship. College planning. Academics. All are part of Education4Life. Using tutors from local colleges and universities, McCall’s program focuses on reaching children who can benefit the most. Progress is tracked; customized learning plans are made. In addition, Education4Life provides school supplies and personal hygiene items, removing barriers that could hinder a child from feeling welcomed by their peers and ready to learn when they reach the classroom.
Results? Consider a 100% high school graduation rate. Many go on to college.
“The most important thing I do is instill a belief that students can do whatever they set their minds to do,” McCall said. “You can do anything with the right support from people who care about you.”
Over the last three years, Regions Bank has provided nearly $40,000 to support education programs at Wilmer Hall. But it’s not just about writing a check. The funding supported many education needs of the nonprofit, including having a full-time reading specialist for students in McCall’s program and updating the education building at the facility where students learn. The contribution is part of Regions’ community engagement priorities, which support greater educational and workforce readiness opportunities.
“This is about removing barriers to success. Every opportunity we have to help children succeed is an opportunity that makes Mobile a better place for all,” said Christian White, Mobile market executive for Regions Bank. “It’s an investment that will lead to a more prosperous future for students – while helping strengthen our community as a whole.”
Brianna Reed knows the impact first-hand. She was a volunteer tutor while enrolled at Spring Hill College. Now, she’s taking her experience with the nonprofit’s education programs and serving in a full-time occupation, serving as director of community education for Wilmer Hall’s Community-Based Education Program.
“As a volunteer, I wanted to do more than simply help with homework,” Reed said. “I wanted to change a defeated mindset and help students see the possibilities if they chose not to give up. In my new role, I can show our volunteer tutors how they can have an impact by simply showing up every time help is needed. It is so much more than just solving a math problem or studying history. It’s providing hope for a future.”
In many ways, hope is the main product of Wilmer Hall. By people and organizations investing in youth, they are sending a message: A prosperous future is within reach.
“Over the last 157 years, how we carry out our mission has evolved, but most simply, it has stayed the same,” Executive Director Pratt Paterson said. “To take care of young people who can’t take care of themselves or who don’t have anyone to take care of them. Our hope – and theirs – is that they will go on to lead productive lives of service to our communities.”
And corporate support is crucial.
“We operate primarily through the generosity of others and receive funding from private donors and grants from organizations such as Regions Bank, whose grants in recent years have really strengthened our education programs and facilities,” Paterson said. “We are thankful for Regions’ support of Wilmer Hall and the people we serve.”
With a new school year underway, McCall’s work is picking up. The next several months will involve a lot of hard work – setting the stage for the reward of graduation.
“These are my kids,” McCall said. “I’m going to see them finish strong.”